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[Commlist] CfP CS 3/2021 - Theatres and politics today. Lights and shadows of a long relationship
Sat Feb 20 15:33:54 GMT 2021
Call for papers
Theatres and politics today. Lights and shadows of a long relationship
Edited by Isabel Bezelga and Giulia Innocenti Malini
Theatre, in its multiple forms of production – which is why we will use,
hereafter, the word “theatres” in the plural, has always been an
expression of the relationship between civic society, political power,
and the way in which people express themselves through individual and
collective performances. Thus, from the very beginning, theatres have
been considered an art available to the community with the three
possible functions of acceptance of the status quo, protest against
existing regimes, and entertainment. At some turns in history,
theatrical performances have even taken on explicit political stances of
protest and criticism, or propaganda and consensus-building, reaching
sometimes forms of outright militancy by affiliation to parties or forms
of government (Ponte di Pino 1996, Dalla Palma 2001, Kershaw 2002,
Ferrarotti 2007, Rancière 2008, Casi and Di Gioia 2012, Mango 2012,
Badiou 2015, Bernardi 2015, Eckersall and Grehan 2019, De Marinis 2020,
Hamidi-Kim 2014 and 2020). Moreover, if we assume, as we propose, a
broad and performative notion of theatre practices (Schechner 2018),
that includes games, feasts, celebrations, street demonstrations,
happenings, performances in public spaces and events, then the
connections between performing arts and practices (on one side) and
politics (on the other) become all the more numerous. In this
perspective, theatres are an intermediate process of interaction between
representative and delegated power systems and their delegating
subjects. A veritable media that has helped both parts of the power
relationship, in spite of the complexities encountered, to shape the
dynamics of collective well-being.
In modern times, the correlation between theatres and political power
has become increasingly problematic, to the point that today we feel
compelled to question it. Are the theatres – art of bodies in relation
to each other, intangible asset consumed in the instant of its
occurrence and involving small, often elitist or fragile parts of the
population, on a local basis, in stark contrast with the prevailing tide
of social media – are these theatres, then, still capable of catalysing
the interests and actions of public, local, national and international
institutions, as well as of the various centres of private initiative,
entrepreneurship or civil participation? How can they not only have
their operating costs met, but first and foremost fulfil their function
in the collective interest?
Contemporary theatrical experiences are part and process of an extremely
complex political context, with respect to which it is urgent to
understand and, perhaps, completely redefine their value as a common and
relational good. Indeed, despite the fact that we can, or want to,
continue reasoning within a straightforward scheme of more or less
explicit and recognisable democratic representations, what we are
experiencing is rather a progressive dilution of the community
experience, linked to the transformation of the dynamics connecting the
individual to the State and to the pluralisation of the centres and
processes of political power. One should think of the forms of
biopolitics (Foucault 2004) and of the necessary correlation between
sovereign power and the exercise of bio-power (Agamben 1995). Also, of
the extreme consequences that emerge in therapeutic governance, where
governmental actions are reduced to risk management and, as a result,
political action becomes the bureaucratic and operational administration
of the same (Pupavac 2001, 2005).
One is reminded as well of the dynamics of psychopolitics, the
expression of a power that is based on information obtained through the
analysis of big-data and that anticipates the actions of subjects and
seduces them with communication, inducing them to become a panopticon of
themselves, self-controllers and primary contributors to power itself
(Han 2016). Thus, the various systems of government are revealed as
ambiguous and ambivalent and as moving within a field of multiple and
conflicting political forces, with rapid and dynamic interactions in
which the idea of a linear relationship between citizens and bodies of
political power is dismissed completely. From this perspective, we can
observe the increasing accreditation of so-called intermediate social
and cultural bodies, often neglected by the dynamics of the modern
nation-state, whose sovereignty is founded exclusively on the
relationship between state and individual.
These “bodies, [which are] intermediate between the individual and the
state, and question the paradigm of sovereignty on the theoretical level
of politics while putting it under pressure on the practical-operational
level of politics” (Marramao 2013), appear increasingly relevant in the
definition of current political issues. If we then look at the scope of
the political dynamics, more complexities appear. The micro, meso and
macro levels of political experience show profound contradictions among
them (Deleuze and Guattari 2010), and if we turn to global issues, the
crisis in which the concepts of citizenship, national identity and, once
again, political representation find themselves becomes apparent.
Whether it is the mobility turn, i.e. the mobility of people, as well as
of objects, thoughts, images, cultural artefacts and much more, that
characterises contemporary life and has vast implications on social and
political systems (Cresswell 2010, Augé 2010), or the environmental
issue, or the current COVID-19 health emergency, each of these global
issues has revealed, like a litmus test, the contradictions of the
political systems exercised by so many different power groups and of
In this context, do contemporary theatrical experiences manage to be
This is what this volume intends to explore, investigating forms,
functions, conditions and ways in which the relationship between
theatres and politics has developed over the last few decades at
national and international level; questioning the diagnostic,
participatory, controlling, identity-forming, social-cushioning,
transformative, activist and other functions that the various arts and
performance practices are putting into play; investigating subjects,
relations, strategies, words and discourse, practices, effects and
impacts. The use of the term theatres in the plural underlines the
adoption of a methodological perspective that integrates the different
manifestations of contemporary theatrical performance, including its
representative, social and popular aspects.
The essays submitted should investigate projects that through performing
arts and festive practices have put into action processes of political
participation, analysing and documenting their developments,
articulations, innovations, social and cultural impact and generative
potential. Priority will be given to papers dedicated to case studies
that present innovative practices, models and processes, investigating
the reasons for their weakness or partial effectiveness and their impact
on the powers’ discourses. It is furthermore hoped that the performing
arts cases considered will include theatrical practices across the
entire spectrum of forms and languages, from spoken word to dance, to
festive practices in the broadest sense. With this general objective of
investigation in mind, the volume intends to focus in particular on a
Does professional, social, popular, performative and plural
theatricality represent a constitutive political dynamic of contemporary
society? With which forms, operational practices, results and methods?
What impact does it have on the well-being of communities and on the
reduction of inequalities? How does it promote processes of
participation in the maintenance, upkeep and increase of the common
good, which stimulate the theatrical and social actorality and
authorship of marginal components? And in this sense, which are the
political limits of theatrical experiences with respect to processes of
institutionalisation of social marginalities? How can they affect public
narratives and discourse?
In a comprehensive approach, the relations between theatre and politics
integrate both experiences considered private and intimate, and those
deriving from public policies, in a complex exercise of power relations.
The body of the individual subject and the collective body are seen as
spheres of expression of the interaction between theatre and politics.
- Digital life
Social media are one of the most frequented relational environments in
the world. Their impact on the various forms of contemporary theatre is
remarkable from all points of view. In terms of the relationship between
theatres and politics, of great importance are both the potential and
the radical changes that the presence in digital marketplaces seems to
induce in theatrical and political structures, in some cases bringing
new vitality to the interaction between theatre and society.
- Performance as/is politics, politics as/is performance
What are the interactions between performance and politics in the two
opposite but complementary senses of performance politics and politics
- Public theatres
Public theatres are closely linked to centres of power, both the ones
that are institutionally recognised, public and private, and the
informal ones. With what characteristics, limitations and resources,
innovations and experiments, conflicts and discoveries do theatres
perform their service as public theatres?
Is contemporary theatre political “because it displays the marks of
domination, or parodies mainstream icons, or even because it leaves the
spaces reserved for it and becomes a social practice, [a practice that
restores social bonds and] incites us to oppose the system of domination
by denouncing its own participation in that system” (Rancière 2010)?
Artistic activism establishes relations of resistance and subversion
(Raposo 2015) in order to find forms of reflection in public spaces,
cultural institutions and in the artists’ own bodies. What are the
forms, practices, models of action, political and social motivations of
contemporary theatrical and performance activism? Which are the
contaminations, innovations and differences with respect to other forms
- Power’s discourses
The desire to escape the representational scheme of meaning production,
which is dominant in our socio-cultural environment as a mechanism of
control and power (Belloni 2018), encourages processes of theatrical
creation and performance that embark on paths of formal and productive
- Community identities
Theatrical and performance experiences can act as processes of local
regeneration, producing resources but also encountering limits. They can
operate according to the logic and processes of direct and active
participation of the inhabitants and of strengthening community ties,
rather than following projects decided solely by public administrations
or by sponsors, avoiding the risk of hypostatising local identities or
suffocating them in favour of artificial substitutes.
- New welfare
Social theatre experiences promote new and informal welfare strategies
at local level which, in addition to responding to the individual life
needs, are laboratories of social participation in the well-being of the
community. Critical issues seem to lie in the difficulty for social
theatre experiences to be integrated with institutional local welfare
systems and to be recognised and valued as a resource.
Theatres are political in reference to a context, to a society living in
a well-defined space and time, to specific groups of people and complex
social and cultural identities. They are part of a certain environment
in relation to which they take on a political value. It is a dynamic and
changing field, in which the unique positions of the subjects are
organised and where local and global forces, often conflicting, are at play.
Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Theatre/performance and power.
- Theatre/performance and cultural policies.
- Theatre/performance and the economies of culture: its
institutionalisation or de-institutionalisation, privatisation and
- Performance between ethics, politics and activism.
- Narrative and counter-narrative.
- Contemporary forms and actions of political theatre.
- Theatre and community development.
- Theatre between representation of society and social actions.
- Artistic and theatrical challenges in times of control, emergency and
Please send an abstract and a short biographical note to
(redazione.cs /at/ unicatt.it), (giulia.innocenti /at/ unicatt.it), (imgb /at/ uevora.pt) by
March 31, 2021 — [subject: CS#3.21—proposal + name surname author(s)].
Abstracts should be from 300 to 400 words of length (English). Authors
will be notified of proposal acceptance by April 7, 2021.
If the proposal is accepted, the author(s) will be asked to submit the
full article by June 15, 2021.
The articles must not exceed 4,000/5,000-words.
Contributions will be submitted to double blind peer review.
The issue number 3.21 of Comunicazioni Sociali will be published in
 Rancière J., Dissensus On Politics and Aesthetics. Edited and
translated by Steven Corcoran, Continuum, London and New York 2010, p.
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